Un album de famille bien particulier: video, 14’ 49", 2012, Courtesy Amina Menia, © Alfredo Rubio.
A Peculiar Family Album, is a film based on excerpts from the personal archives of Jacques Chevallier, once the deputy-mayor of Algiers (1953-1958).
From 1953 to 1957, Fernand Pouillon was hired by the deputy-major of Algiers Jacques Chevallier to implicate social housing projects to benefit impoverished Algerians. Through this ambitious program, Jacques Chevallier tried to reduce the pronounced inequalities that separated the Europeans and the “indigenous” population. Thus were born the city housing projects of Diar Es-Saâda, Diar El-Mahçoul and Climat de France onto each of which Pouillon imprinted his style.
At the same time that this “housing battle” was launched, another battle, far more fierce, broke out: The War of Algeria (1954 - 1962). The images contained in this film, which were made by a colleague of Chevallier, omit this context. They focus on the buildings emerging from the land, on the construction site inspections, and on the countless inaugural ceremonies. They are, nonetheless, truly a “making-of” of a project that should have transformed the face of the capital city.
Articulating antagonistic concerns, exploring the heritage of utopian projects of the last century in Algiers, and putting in perspective the present failure of urbanism there, this film gives an implicit look at the contradictory effects of modernism imposed upon Algiers and throughout the world.
Amina Menia is a mixed-media artist living and working in Algiers, Algeria. Her work questions the relation to architectural and historical spaces, and challenges conventional notions around the exhibition space. With a minimal lexicon, she underlines historical places, revisits urban legends, points out urban gaps by ephemeral interventions. Working across installation and sculpture, her art encourages exchange and attempts to probe social changes through “daily urban practices”. Extra Muros (2005-ongoing) is a series of site-specific installations throughout Algiers. An invitation to revisit this city and then its reappropriation. It encountered so many obstacles that most of its chapters remain unrealised. Therefore, it overlaps with its problematic of denouncing confiscated spaces, confiscated memory and lack of freedom. For Chrysanthemums (2010-2011), she proposed a photographic installation in frontal relation with the viewer where she documented abandoned monuments charged with history. Un écorché is a long-term research based project where she explored the architectural, historical and social common heritage between Algiers and Marseille. Menia exhibitions include: Museum of Modern Art of Algiers (MAMA), Algeria; Carthage National Museum, Tunisia; and Castile-León Museum of Contemporary Art (MUSAC) in León, Spain. She also recently exhibited at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Marseilles, France, Royal Hibernian Academy in Dublin, Ireland and the Museum of African Design in Johannesburg, South Africa. She participated in the 11th Sharjah Biennial in the United Arab Emirates and will soon take part to the Folkestone Triennial 2014.
View online : www.aminamenia.com